Commentary

Disciples


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Sunday, April 28, 1889

     8.10 P.M. W. reading Tribune. Said his health was "half and half." I asked: "Like the weather?" And he answered: "Yes, just that"—for today had been raining and clear by turns. Had made up a copy of the big book to send to Will Carleton at Brooklyn. "No news at all today," he reported, "not a letter." Had read papers—Press, Tribune, &c. "I suppose the Tribune came from Tom," he explained; "he must have stopped at the door but did not come up." Returned me the Bazaar. Had "carefully scanned" both it and Scribners; said of the latter, "it is wonderful, the wealth of its illustrations." It had been "a great joy" to him to inspect— "I went all through with it." Cauffman had spoken to the Cliffords as though the English exhibit at the photographic exhibition was superior. Cauffman—a man of fine and practiced tastes art-ward—paints, photographs, himself. W., as always, greatly taken by the topic. Was greatly interested anyhow in my Germantown trip—in my description of greens—the rain-freshened landscape.

     I had referred the Stedman matter to Clifford, asking his judgment. He thought S.'s letter "almost tragic" in tone—

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"certainly pathetic"—and wondered if in this case a word or two from W. W. would not be advised. W. listened intently to my rehearsal of Clifford's opinions and reasons, and for the rest of the time of my stay seemed much more troubled and silent than before. I could well see that questions had been raised anew in his mind. His estimate of Clifford's "acumen" high. He made little comment, though questioning and questioning till he felt he had heard all I had to tell him. Several times last week this plan had struck me: that I should have W.'s consent to write to Stedman for my two letters, submit them to W., and if he approved, consent that they be published. Have not said a word of this to W. Clifford seemed to subscribe to that. I said to W.: "Clifford feels as I do that that is the letter of a man who thinks there is at least a probability that you have said such, or similar things, of him." And W. himself: "I can see that myself—Stedman certainly gives out that impression."

     Ever since the note from Bucke proposing the removal, W.'s demeanor towards me has been more tender and marked. This has been decidedly palpable—so much so as to strike me peculiarly. What it means—whether stay or departure—I should not dare to attempt stating. Tonight he said nothing directly touching the subject. I had with me an Emerson volume containing "The Poet," and opened it at the closing paragraph, handing it then to W. He remarked: "It is not new to me—I have seen it, read it, of course." But made no comment which either resented or accepted its application to him. He read the matter marked—read this book, too, as if he liked it. "Paper, print, type,—it is all good for the eye—and then it's a first edition, too, isn't it? 1866?" He did not think that edition "was ever beaten" typographically. I said of "The Poet" quote— "If you last, that describes you; if not, that's not your name!" He laughed greatly, but said not a word.

     Dr. Furness preached for Clifford this forenoon. He is

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nearly 90. W. dwelt upon it a long time—did not seem able to shake it out of his thought. "A grand old age! a grand old age! It is almost incredible—yet it is! It defies statement, almost—certainly rule and explanation." Asked me then: "How did he appear? Could he be heard?" And added: "It is remarkable how men will stay and stay. Such men must have a wonderful background somewhere—some grand physical base—some sane bottom, eternal, we could say, in its purity of composition." "I remember a very old man down in Washington—I think in the war-time; he came there, was elected chaplain of the Senate of the House. Oh yes! I knew him. And he could be heard. His vigor was a constant wonder to me. It is among the Methodists, you know, that there occur the more remarkable cases of longevity." He did not attempt to explain this, but that it was undoubted. "Oh! what was his name—his name?"—And after considerable waiting: "It will not come—not a sign of it—yet I know it well. Nowadays my memory for names seems strangely deserting me—strangely." Nor could he recall it while I stayed, though several times indicating that he had not forgotten his quest. I did not persist much this evening, shortly off and to town again. W. always asks me on departure: "Where are you going now?" and on coming: "How have you spent the day?—what seen?"—or some such question.


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